An Alarming Rate Of Alarming

, , , , , , | Learning | August 30, 2019

I am a resident assistant in a hall occupied almost entirely by freshmen; in essence, I am a poorly-paid babysitter. A few days into the fall semester, the fire alarm goes off at around 11:00 pm. I usher all the sleepy freshmen out of the building and across the street, and we wait for the firefighters to give us the all-clear.

Eventually, we are able to go back inside, but that’s not the end of it. We have to check the student ID of every. Single. Person. Mind you, 650 students live in this building, not counting overnight guests. It takes a long time, but it’s necessary to keep students safe and prevent strangers from entering the building. 

Finally, everyone is sorted and the RAs can go back to bed. I’ve just fallen into a blissful sleep when I am awakened again by the sound of a fire alarm. I look at my clock and see that it is 3:00 am. Grudgingly, I get out of bed and we do the same song and dance. It takes the firefighters less time to do this round, and we end up going to bed within the hour.

I am appalled when, just before dawn, the fire alarm goes off again. I notice that far fewer people are outside than the previous two alarms, which I later learn is because many students elected to just stay in bed and endure the ear-splitting alarm — and make it that much harder for the rest of us, since we can’t get the all-clear until everyone has left the building. Finally, finally, we get back inside and I get a couple more hours of sleep before my 9:00 am class.

Later, I’m talking to my boss and discover the reason we had so many alarms in one night. There is a dining hall on the first floor of the building, and it was being renovated all summer. They had finally finished construction that week, but somehow messed up the wiring such that it repeatedly triggered the fire alarm. After the third alarm, they finally fixed it.

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